Carol and her family were in San Diego this weekend, so there was no Sunday family dinner. They had gone to watch the Notre Dame/Navy game. (ND won by a substantial score to remain undefeated.) Carol’s husband is a Notre Dame alum as are his father – and his brothers – and his sister. And they are all devoted sports fans. Carol’s husband goes to South Bend for football whenever he can, and the whole family often comes to LA when Notre Dame is playing nearby, usually against USC. The pilgrimage left us by ourselves, and so I thought Sunday would be a good time to clean out the refrigerator. There was a sweet potato that needed to be used. (It had tiny leaves appearing.) There was a potato that also needed to be used, along with a package of ground beef that I had bought the day before without a clear idea for it. The days have gotten cooler, so something like cottage pie sounded good. Why not top it with sweet potato mash instead of/along with the usual mashed potatoes? Done.
The other thing to while away my time was a new toy. I had bought a Xenvo lens set from Amazon. The lenses clip onto your cell phone to augment the built-in lens. The wide-angle lens does not really do much as my iPhone lens is already wide angle with a large depth of field. The macro, on the other hand, is great. It has only a single focus point, so it is not as versatile as the macro lens on my DSLR, but it is still fun to see what really-close-up images you can make. I am afraid that this post will wind up being a series of macro images of ingredients. Even at that, I hope you enjoy them.
Harvest Cottage Pie
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter* (You will need 8 tablespoons – one stick – in all)
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter*
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 egg
- salt to taste
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup beef stock
- ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 medium cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1 carrot sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler (alternatively grate)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter for topping*
- In a small stockpot, cover the sweet potato in salted water and bring to the boil. Boil gently for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Drain. Force through a potato ricer or mash. Stir in the butter until it is completely melted. Add the Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside for final assembly.
- In a small stockpot, cover the cubed russet potato in salted water and bring to the boil. Boil gently for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Drain. Force through a potato ricer or mash. Stir in the butter until it is completely melted. Then stir in the milk and egg until they are completely incorporated. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. You can substitute black pepper but it will leave black specks in the mash. Set aside for final assembly.
- Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir until they are completely wilted but not browned. Add the ground beef and stir occasionally until the meat is completely browned. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the stock and stir until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the thyme and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Assemble the cottage pie by transferring the meat mixture to a well-greased oven-proof dish large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Layer the mushrooms and carrots on the top of the meat. Then alternate large spoonsful of sweet potato and potato mash on the top. Using a pastry brush, baste the top with melted butter. Bake in the middle of a preheated 350° oven for one hour.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.
Cook’s note: The carrot slices, although attractive, turned out to be a little hard to eat. Coarsely grated carrot may be better. Actually it may be even better to leave out the carrot as it has sweetness and flavor that compete with the sweet potato.